Football: OPERATION EUROPE: Phil Gordon's guide to this week's Champions' League action

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The Independent Online

Johan Cruyff may not fancy the "decaff" Champions' League very much but right now his old club seem to be back in love with the competition. Barcelona have exploded out of the blocks with two wins, a stark contrast to the tortuous campaigns of the last two years. "Dream Team 2" was the headline in one paper - in reference to Cruyff's side who won the European Cup in 1992 - after the stunning 4-2 defeat of Fiorentina. However, Louis van Gaal cautioned: "We have restored our image in Europe with this victory, but it was just one game," while his captain, Pep Guardiola, added: "Arsenal are better than the Italians, and it will be a different game." Rivaldo's double last Wednesday illustrates why he is the best player on the planet right now, while Patrick Kluivert will be keen to upstage his Ajax tutor, Dennis Bergkamp.


Old Trafford has made the mistake before of under-rating French opposition - Monaco? - and it would be wise for everyone else to be as respectful of Marseilles as Sir Alex Ferguson will be. This is a different team to the one slaughtered live on TV by Parma in last season's Uefa Cup final. Fabrizio Ravanelli, a scorer in the opening night win over Sturm Graz, may not even start: the White Feather only came on as a late sub in the midweek success away to Croatia Zagreb. The man doing the damage (stop sniggering, Goodison) is Ibrahima Bakayoko, who has been reborn since his move back to the Cote d'Azur, with his goal in Zagreb part of a recent spree. The captain, Robert Pires, is another goal threat, while Florian Maurice was John Toshack's preferred choice until his chairman bought Nicolas Anelka for Real Madrid instead.


Welcome home? Dick Advocaat and Arthur Numan are likely to find that their return to the Philips Stadium is not as illuminating as they would have hoped. The man who guided PSV to a Dutch title and the star who played 500 games for them will be simply two more of the enemy on Tuesday. When everything is at stake - both clubs have only a point so far - there is no room for sentiment, which could make Advocaat a dangerous house guest: the Rangers coach likes to go for the jugular away from home, as he proved in charge of PSV with a stunning 5-3 win over Leeds at Elland Road. Advocaat will try to hit PSV on the break, using the pace of another Dutchman, Michael Mols, but he will warn his defence about Ruud van Nistelrooij, whose goal against Valencia last week reinforced the five he hit in Champions' League last season.


Chelsea refused to heed my warning about Ali Daei, so here's another free tip for Franck Leboeuf and Co: Hakan Sukur is not as clumsy as he looks. The idol of Turkish football rips up every stereotype. His nickname, the Bull of the Bosphorus, seemed like a lot of bull after an ill-fated spell with Torino a few years ago, but the tall striker re-invented himself so well - three goals in Champions' League last season and 32 in Turkey - that Juventus tried to bring him back to Serie A. The asking price was too high, and since then Hakan has been able to put football into perspective: his parents were believed to have been among the victims of last month's earthquake until found safe and sound in another village. The Galatasary chief Fatih Terim took all his players and their frightened families to a beach resort to revive spirits; now they could leave Chelsea all washed up.